(please note, this text was modified and mangled from www.sandystone.com, old acltab sites and unkown sources that showed up late one night.)
2011 marks the nineteenth anniversary of the ACTLab. It's been quite a rollercoaster. When we started, the Web didn't exist and email was all but unknown at UT. Then, as now, our primary emphasis wasn't on computer skills but on conceptual thinking, self-motivation, group effort, risktaking, and MAKING STUFF!
In 1992, the ACTLab began in a closet on the sixth floor of the CMA building. Sandy Stone, Dick Cutler (t.a.) and seven brave student pioneers squeezed in there for two (literally) jam-packed, sweaty semesters. It was like one of those tiny cars out of which come a thousand clowns.
We participated in the birth of the World-Wide Web, and, after its inception, students built new ACTLab web pages every year or so. Here's one from 1995 and one from 1996. Not all the links work on the historically interesting pages, but they represent an amazing and transformative time in the history of online interaction.
In 1993 we moved to a classroom, then knocked down the walls and became two classrooms. In the process we painted the entire space black and hung christmas lights from the ceiling, causing neighboring faculty to complain that we were running a den of iniquity. The ACTLab's first floor plan had a seminar table in the middle of the room, and the walls lined with workstations. Hackers at the workstations turned from their work to add comments to the discussions at the seminar table. Final projects took any form - construction, installation, painting, sculpture, collage, sound, music, digital-fu, text, or online interactive-fu such as web-based projects.
In 2000 we moved to a spacious TV / Film production studio on the 4th Floor of the CMB building on the University of Texas campus.
We completed a preliminary renovation in Summer 2000 to make the studio more, uh, ACTLablike...that is, to suggest possibility, sustained effort, risk, and enough funk to encourage playfulness. We tried to paint that room black too, but a fiberglass-padded cube with 40 foot vertices soaks up an awful lot of it.
For a while in 2001-2002 we were ACTLab/Convergent Media. In 2002 Convergent Media spun off into the RTF production area and gradually faded away. Then in 2010 Joseph Lopez (ACTLab PhD) founded a program at University of the Incarnate Word based on the ACTLab framework and called -- you guessed it -- Convergent Media.
Back in the ACTLab mother ship, we continued to
bridge multiple areas and disciplines, including production and
studies in the RTF department, until 2010. Then Sandy, Elijah,
and Joachm founded ACTLab@EGS, Joey founded
UIW Convergent Media, Sandy
"retired", as she put it, from UT, and we suspended formal semester-long
ACTLab classes at UT Austin (although the ACTLab Mother Ship is still
located there, and ACTLab Student Services and the rest of the
ACTLab infrastructure still operate).
Our students, faculty, and guest lecturers are an eclectic mixture of ages, experience, disciplines, and skills. They come from the departments of Art, English, History, Anthropology, Computer Science, Rhetoric, Latin-American Studies, Theater and Dance, Performance Studies, and Radio- Television-Film, to name a few. Some are fresh out of high school, some have had careers of their own.
Like our program and web pages, the ACTLab studio is, and always has been, a work in progress. Besides state-of-the-art digital and analog equipment we provide theatrical lighting, thrust stage, video projector, DJ turntables and theatre-sized quadraphonic sound system, seminar tables that can be rolled away to open up floor space for movement activities, environmental performance, and installation work. We also have equipment we haven't even used yet, and you are welcome to play with it and figure out what you can make it do.
The studio seems to work pretty much as intended, judging by the number of students who of their own volition practically live there twenty-four hours a day. Toward the end of the semester, in accordance with the ACTLab Prime Directive MAKE STUFF! , the studio fills up with student projects of all kinds. Alas, they have to take them home afterward...we wish we had space enough to archive all of them.
(Coming soon: The ACTLab Museum :-)